The new-for-2020 Jaguar F-Type R crowns the sports car range with more sculpted lines and scalpel-like handling thanks to retuned steering and all-wheel-drive setup.
In the metal
Technically you could call this version of the Jaguar F-Type a facelift, but the sleek sports car has come in for a significant overhaul, leading the company to refer to it as the 2021 MY (model year) car instead. Either way, it's quite a different looking car to the one it supersedes. Much of that is down to the new front end that has totally changed from the windscreen forward. Much slimmer headlight units gain a more horizontal position that, along with the reshaped grille, serve to give the F-Type a very different face, and one that seems more aggressive, especially in this top-spec R model. That vast aluminium bonnet - an impressive feat of production in itself - gives the illusion of the F-Type having an even longer nose, though the overall vehicle length is unchanged.
Aesthetic alterations to the rear of the car are less dramatic, which is no bad thing, as the Jaguar's rear quarter view was, and remains, one of its best angles. A redesigned bumper and new, slimmer taillights incorporate the 'chicane' signature first seen on the I-Pace. The interior of the F-Type remains a cosy one, as you sit low in the car, which does at least add to the sense of involvement. The R gets sportier 'Performance' seats that feature taller shoulder supports.
Being 2020, the instrumentation has switched to an all-digital affair, with a 12.3-inch display sitting ahead of the steering wheel. It's configurable to your tastes and includes a shift light when driving in manual mode. The 10-inch infotainment system is better to use too, and you still get neat features like the dual air vents that raise up from the top of the dashboard to reveal themselves when the climate control is activated.
There is one major reason that you'll want to buy the new Jaguar F-Type R over the other versions in the range and that's down to the full-blooded supercharged V8. It now has the same power output as the old F-Type SVR did, a more-than-adequate 575hp and 700Nm of torque to help keep your neck muscles in shape. The standing start sprint to the 100km/h yardstick also matches the SVR's 3.7 seconds, although the top speed is now electronically limited to 300km/h - whereas the SVR gave you 322km/h. Not that it matters, as you can have plenty of fun and at more responsible speeds in the F-Type R.
Much of the learning from the SVR has contributed to the chassis setup of the R, which gets double wishbone suspension at each corner and gains new anti-roll bars, dampers with improved internals and die-cast aluminium knuckles. It's no bone-rattling supercar ride, though; even on 20-inch wheels the F-Type R retains enough civility to serve as an everyday proposition. In fact, its most limiting factor may just be the limited boot space in the convertible version, which holds a mere 233 litres. Both the primary and secondary ride are well-judged and strike a nice balance between retaining composure and soaking up the bumps. The added security of the all-wheel-drive transmission imbues confidence in drivers that may not be used to such power. For some, the lack of a rear-wheel-drive option, and the resultant lack of tail happiness, will be missed, but the all-wheel-drive power distribution turns the Jaguar into a far more exploitable machine.
With the wick turned fully up and set in its more dynamic settings the Jaguar devours corners and blasts out of hairpins with acceleration that is as addictive as the cacophony of sound pouring from its four exhausts. The cold metal shifters are positioned in just the right place and slot in the next ratio with a slam and crack of the exhaust. The steering, as is often the case with Jaguars, feels ideally weighted too. It would be easy to 'add' to its sportiness by loading up too much resistance in the wheel, but Jaguar's engineers thankfully thought better. Away from that the R settles effortlessly into everyday driving and, with the active exhausts turned down, it dispatches long motorway drives with ease and without any engine drone to tire you out. But such is the intoxicating thrill of stretching this engine's legs, you'll want to take the long way wherever you're going.
What you get for your money
The F-Type R isn't short of competitors around the same price bracket. Being the range-topper, the F-Type R carries a hefty price premium with the standard model starting at €179,145 plus delivery-related costs. That's over €100,000 more than the entry-grade F-Type P300, though they are two very different cars. Go for the Convertible version and the cost increases by €9,600. Standard equipment includes the Pixel LED headlights, a powered boot lid, Performance seats with Windsor leather upholstery that are twelve-way adjustable, a Meridian sound system, lane keep assist, cruise control (though an adaptive kind isn't offered), keyless entry and traffic sign recognition. However, practical assistance systems like Blind Spot Assist and Park Assist are optional extras rather than standard.
As with the rest of the F-Type range, the R gets the 12.3-inch digital instrument display and a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen system that includes smartphone connectivity with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and has Spotify embedded. Like most high-end sports cars (arguably this is approaching supercar territory on performance), the list of extras can quickly drive up the price. That lovely Sorrento Yellow paintwork is a mere €9,170, and you can add a satin finish to that for an additional €4,340. That makes adding the Black Exterior Pack a snip at just €805. The standard wheel size is 20-inch and three alternative designs are available ranging in price from €1,225 to €2,445. By far the most expensive option is the upgrade to the Carbon Ceramic Brake Pack, which costs €15,265 and features 398mm discs on the front and 380mm on the rear, grabbed by yellow brake calipers.
The styling changes alone should put the Jaguar F-Type R onto more buyers' radars and the performance on offer from this exquisite supercharged V8 engine goes some way to justifying the price of admission. If you're in the market for easily accessible supercar-like performance, the F-Type R should go onto your shortlist.